Sunday, 5 February 2012

Book of the Week - Andrea Gillies, The White Lie

The White Lie by Andrea Gillies is a first novel about the unreliability of personal history, a theme which seemed to crop up a lot last year and on which I have commented previously. The White Lie is set against the background of a decaying highland estate. We quickly learn that the narrator is dead and much of the book is about how and why this happened, and how a secret can become distorted and lost. History is inherently unreliable, and personal history more than most.

While The White Lie is Gillie’s first novel she has had previous significant success.  She cared for her mother-in-law, who had Alzheimer's disease, and the book that emerged from this experience, Keeper, was a factual account of that relationship, a meditation on the nature of consciousness and identity as much as on dementia and its treatment. Its scope – from science to politics – won it both the Wellcome Trust book prize and the Orwell prize. The White Lie has been very positively reviewed, and is the sort of book to watch out for in the literary prizes this year. So far as I can see it is released as a paperback only by Short Books Ltd

"On a hot summer's afternoon, Ursula Salter runs sobbing from the loch on her parents' Scottish estate and confesses, distraught, that she has killed Michael, her 19 year old nephew.

But what really happened? No body can be found, and Ursula's story is full of contradictions. In order to protect her, the Salters come up with another version of events, a decision that some of them will come to regret.

Years later, at a family gathering, a witness speaks up and the web of deceit begins to unravel. What is the white lie? Only one person knows the whole truth. Narrating from beyond the grave, Michael takes us to key moments in the past, looping back and back until - finally - we see what he sees."

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